Veronica Delgado

Veronica Delgado

The liver is one the largest and most important glands in our body. Its primary roles include detoxification of the blood, removal of excess glucose from the blood and storage of it as glycogen, bile production for the digestion of fats, and excretion of hormones, drugs and cholesterol.

When there is an imbalance in lifestyle and diet, the liver can be affected and create many long-term complications. The main disease that is developed due to lifestyle factors is called fatty liver.

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the accumulation of excess fat in the hepatocytes or liver cells, which can make the liver yellow and enlarged. Lack of treatment can eventually lead to cirrhosis and end-stage liver disease. Some of the conditions that coincide with fatty liver disease include Type 2 diabetes, obesity, hyperlipidemia and metabolic syndrome. Some of the symptoms that help detect NAFLD include abdominal pain, loss of appetite, jaundice or yellowing of the skin or eyes, and weakness.

High intakes of saturated fats and simple sugars can cause a negative effect on the liver. The Western diet is highly focused on these types of macronutrients, which are mainly found in processed foods such as sugary beverages, pastries and fried foods. On the other hand, high intakes of omega-3 fatty acids, dietary fiber, lean meats and plant-based protein can contribute to the prevention and slow progression of NAFLD. Some examples are whole-grain cereals, fruits, vegetables, leafy greens, low-fat dairy, and fatty fish such as salmon, trout and mackerel.

The role of micronutrients does have a favorable treatment of NAFLD. These include vitamins A, C, D and E, as well as zinc and copper. These provide antioxidant and antifibrotic effects that deliberate the progression.

Making diet modifications and increasing physical activity to at least 30 minutes a day can reduce the risk of developing complications of NAFLD and create a better quality of life.

Veronica Delgado is a dietitian at DeTar Hospital.